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In the Kitchen with... Tim & Lori Diebel
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Ben Lochard
IN THE KITCHEN WITH... June/July 2018
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Tim & Lori Diebel
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Check out these recipes from Tim & Lori Diebel:

Breakfast Buttercups

Roasted Beets with Baby Greens, Maple Mustard Vinaigrette,and Goat Cheese

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Norwalk couple takes the farm-to-table concept to heart. Watch them grow.

On at least two occasions, Tim Diebel has accepted a calling. The first for the west Texas native was to become a pastor. With degrees from Texas Christian University, Brite Divinity School, and Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, he came to Iowa in 1993 and was a pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for 30 years before retiring. He now fills in as needed for various churches in the area.

Lori, his wife, a lifelong Iowan, grew up in Hampton and earned degrees from the University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University. She has been an elementary school teacher, an elementary and freshman high school principal, and a district human resources director, mostly for the West Des Moines Community Schools.

With busy lives, the two lived in a condo, ate at restaurants a lot, didn’t cook much, and had a deck “farm” to raise a few tomatoes and peppers.

An awakening

But as he approached retirement, Tim had another calling: a ministry to understand the gift of food. “I started wanting to learn more and more about food. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that what happens in the future to our planet affects our food supply. I decided I wanted to grow food on simple terms.” He preached about his findings, signed up for classes, and read all he could on sustainability.

Lori says she slowly came around to Tim’s passion. “I grew up in northern Iowa with a mother who gardened. As I watched her dig potatoes, I told myself I would get educated and make enough money so I wouldn’t have to dig my own potatoes.” Look at her now. She, too, has taken many classes and learned many techniques. “I love to learn,” she says. “This is all about eating healthier and loving the planet.”

The couple has worked tirelessly to bring their new efforts to light in their Taproot Garden, a name they chose because it refers to the sturdy roots of plants such as carrots and dandelions that reach deep into the soil. They added solar panels to their home, and they now raise heirloom chickens. They planted four dozen fruit and nut trees, installed three hives of bees for honey, and planted three acres of natural prairie with grasses and wild flowers. Their produce is Certified Naturally Grown, meaning they use no synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or GMO seeds.

Eye-opening experience

They laugh that they moved to the country with ignorance, naiveté, and idealism. Reality came in various ways. “For one, I got carpel tunnel syndrome by pruning trees,” Lori says. She and Tim usually shop for meal preparations by going to their lower level, where a stocked canning kitchen is a testament to their hard work. They put in a professional restaurant-style deep sink and have two and a half freezers, three dehydrators, crocks, canners, and shelf after shelf of Mason jars for their wares. They even have an apple press, which comes in handy for dealing with the six varieties of apples they grow, plus pawpaw, pear, peach, and cherry trees. The garden is also home to numerous berry bushes and asparagus, rhubarb, and horseradish plants. They grow a dozen varieties of tomatoes and peppers, along with radicchio and dikon radishes.

They make items such as rumtopf, which involves fermenting fruit in rum. They serve it on ice cream or pound cake for a German treat. Lori now has sourdough starter going for making bread and English muffins. The couple makes yogurt and sauerkraut and cans salsa verde, chow-chow relish, and marinara and barbecue sauces. Plus, they belong to a meat CSA (community-supported agriculture), from which they get various cuts of meat from a local farmer.

During harvest season they participate in a monthly farmers market at Ted Lare Design + Build in Cumming, where they sell eggs and other garden produce.

Other adventures

At Taproot Garden the Diebels also offer ministry to ministers through work and spiritual retreats. The land has an outdoor labyrinth and fire pit area. Renewal experiences, such as Soil & Soul, are held in conjunction with the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. The space is also a venue for small retreats for team building and leadership experiences. Tim and Lori are both certified instructors in Core and Couple Communication programs, and Tim is a trained facilitator in premarriage workshops. There has even been a wedding at Taproot Garden, as well as programs for children. “Kids might be shy at first, but then they want to put up a tent and stay,” Tim explains. And on Earth Day, the garden hosts a party, of course. It’s a sing-along.

It’s all about germinating ideas, the couple says. They give credit to Larry Ladd and Shirley Hanson of Baxter, who offered land for gardening to get started. “They are amazing angels,” Lori says.

Throughout their experiences the Diebels learned there’s nothing simple about living simply. But it surely is satisfying. Just ask Tir and Nia, the Diebels’ two Welsh corgis. They’re living the good life.

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